Biblical Evangelism – Part 5

The final thing we must consider regarding biblical evangelism is that in the New Testament the apostles and the early church taught and practised that baptism was part of the actual conversion process. Throughout the New Testament evangelism consisted simply of the declaration to unbelievers that they should repent of their sins, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be baptised. That, and that alone, is the biblical gospel. And if you read the Acts of the Apostles you will find that, entirely consistent with that assertion, converts were baptised immediately upon profession of faith in the Lord.

Fundamentally, for two thousand years, the Christian Church has gotten baptism completely wrong, and two errors have dominated regarding it since the emergence of the false teachings of the Early Church Fathers. The first error is when baptism occurs when it shouldn’t (infant baptism), and secondly, when it doesn’t occur when it should; that is, when it is delayed after conversion for the purpose of any kind of baptismal preparation.

We must be clear that, if we go by scripture as opposed to unbiblical Christian tradition, baptism has nothing whatsoever to do with such things as whether your parents are existing church members and themselves baptised, or with joining a church, or with the ministrations of priests or church pastors, or with special church ‘services’ to inaugurate new converts into the Christian life. Absolutely not! None of those things have anything whatsoever to do with baptism! In the New Testament, whether someone was saved publicly in a crowd, or privately with hardly anyone else present, converts were baptised immediately upon profession of their repentance and faith and Jesus. No special meetings were required, and there was certainly no need for church leaders to be present for the purpose of presiding over proceedings and performing the baptism. Biblically, baptism was simply understood to be part of the conversion process. If you were with someone who had just believed in Jesus and gotten saved, then you baptised them as soon as possible – pure and simple!

I’m not suggesting that if someone believes on the Lord but doesn’t get baptised as part of that process they aren’t saved. Of course not! But I am saying that for two thousand years, as with evangelism in general – and many other things pertaining to our discipleship and church life – the Christian Church has followed the false teachings of mere men as opposed obeying the teaching of the New Testament. Or, to put it another way, whether it be evangelism, baptism, church life, or a myriad other things, the Christian Church continues, virtually monolithically,  to go against the teaching of scripture.

So let me summarise what we have seen in our consideration of biblical evangelism:

  1. Nowhere does scripture command that all believers are to engage in proactive evangelism.
  2. Nowhere does the New Testament instruct us to pray for the salvation of unbelievers.
  3. There is not one example in the entire New Testament of an evangelistic declaration that includes the proclamation of God’s love to unbelievers.
  4. The gospel message is the communication of the fact that God’s wrath abides on unbelievers, and that they are commanded to repent, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be baptised. By so doing they will receive forgiveness of their sins, the free gift of salvation and eternal life.
  5. The New Testament teaches that baptism is part of the conversion process and that converts should therefore be baptised immediately upon repentance and profession of faith in the Lord. There is no biblical requirement for the presence of church leaders, neither for special church ‘meetings’ during which baptisms are performed. Whether the evangelism had taken place in a public or private setting, the early church baptised converts immediately simply upon their profession of faith.

I do appreciate how unnerving and mind-blowing all this is, but hey, don’t blame me for the fact that the Christian Church is in so much serious error and continues to go against the Bible so much. As an Ephesian 4 pastor-teacher I am mandated by the Lord to teach what scripture says and to refute error, and I must therefore expose the unbiblical and man-originated doctrines and traditions that most other Christian leaders teach, and to which most Christians resultantly adhere. But let me end with this: If you disagree with what I have said and want to counter it in any way, then I think that’s great! Indeed, I positively welcome it! Please feel absolutely free to challenge what I have said and to correct me all you will! (Indeed, feel absolutely free to challenge anything I have ever taught anywhere!) But here’s the deal! You must do so from the text of scripture itself and not on any other basis. You are free to fire all the unscriptural theology, personal opinions and so-called ‘prophetic’ declarations at me you want, but be warned that I will only take notice of arguments and reasonings that are formulated from the text of scripture itself. I have no desire to upset or offend anyone, but when it comes to issues of doctrine, ethics and practise, I only accept as authoritative the teaching of scripture itself.

 

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Biblical Evangelism – Part 3

One of the problems that results from Christians believing things that aren’t found in the pages of scripture, yet whilst assuming that what they believe is scriptural, is that when they meet folk who are actually biblical in their thinking they assume that they are the ones who aren’t being biblical. Let me give you an example!

Although most churches are set up and function pretty much the complete opposite to what we see in the New Testament, Christians in such unbiblical churches nevertheless assume that their unbiblical churches are biblical and as scripture teaches. Therefore, when they meet a believer who is part of a church that is actually set up, and which does actually function like the New Testament churches, they correctly realise that it’s the opposite of their experience of what a church ought to be like, but completely incorrectly assume it to be in error and therefore don’t recognise it as even being a church. Indeed, I have faced this argument on more than one occasion from church leaders who have sought to discredit me in some way. Because I am part of a church which is set up like the churches in the New Testament we are therefore completely different to the churches my detractors are part of. Therefore, because these leaders of unbiblical churches don’t recognise us as even being a church, they accuse me of being churchless. Not being part of a church is then presented as the evidence that I have gone rogue and am spiritually deviant, and that I should not, therefore, be listened to.

But of course the fact remains that I am, and always have been, part of a church, just as are those who claim that I am not. But of course it’s just that I’m not part of a church as far as those who think un-biblically about church are concerned! Because they don’t realise that they aren’t thinking biblically about the subject, they are therefore convinced that anyone who is part of a biblically set up church isn’t actually part of a church! Whatever we are part of, these folk claim, it isn’t a church! Can you see the problem?

So in similar vein there may well be those among my readers who now think I don’t believe in evangelism, just as there are Christians in ‘them thar hills’ who don’t believe I am part of a church. So let me make quite clear, notwithstanding what I have said about evangelism and praying for unbelievers, that I do most certainly believe in evangelism, but in evangelism as biblically understood! Nothing could be further from the truth than any suggestion that I don’t believe in, or that I in any way downplay, evangelism!

Indeed, for those who are called to proactively evangelise, and who therefore have the gift of being an evangelist (or apostle), I actually believe that they ought to pursue their calling downright obsessively. What, I ask, outside of being a godly husband and father, could be more important to them? (Indeed, I am convinced that there are those who are called to evangelism whilst still single who will be required to forego marriage, and especially if their gifting is that of being an apostle, with the almost constant travelling involved, precisely so they can be sufficiently obsessed and not have a wife and children distracting them. My own calling is that of the Ephesian 4 pastor/teacher – I am obviously using the word ‘pastor’ here in it’s biblical sense and not meaning the commonly used unbiblical definition – and I think it probably safe to say that I’m more than a little bit obsessed myself. Present me with the slightest opportunity to show folk what the Bible teaches, and/or to pastorally help them grow in the Lord, and I positively guarantee that I will dive in with both feet, hook, line and sinker, all guns blazing and with even a faintly maniacal look in my eye. So yeah, I’m obsessed with my calling, and I expect evangelists and apostles to be obsessed with theirs. But it would be nothing short of ridiculous for either me or them to expect Christians who don’t have the same calling to be similarly occupied or equally exercised as we are.

Returning to evangelists, though, this is not to say that they don’t have a role to play in regards to the saints! They most certainly do! And that role, as Ephesians 4 makes clear, is to encourage and carry those believers along with them who don’t have the gift of evangelism themselves, and get them caught up, so to speak, in the wake of their enthusiasm and evangelistic endeavours. This must, however, be entirely voluntary on the part of the non-evangelists, and must occur at the Spirit’s leading without any pressure being put on them. Remember, there is no command in scripture for non-evangelistically-gifted believers to proactively evangelise. But the beauty of having apostles and/or evangelists around is that they will create all kinds of circumstances in which non-evangelistically-gifted believers can get to do a good bit of responsive witnessing which they wouldn’t have otherwise had opportunity for, due to the apostle/evangelist creating those opportunities for them.

Similarly, pastor-teachers like me will always be looking out for younger men to encourage and mentor, just as Paul encouraged Timothy in his calling and then exhorted him to likewise encourage others by way of passing on his function and gifting to them. But in the process of such Ephesian 4 ministries equipping the saints at large and passing on their gifting to others, we must ensure that we keep ever in mind the vital truth that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are apportioned differently to each according to the Lord’s will, and not all are going to have the same gifts.

So here’s the deal; I’ll be obsessed with my calling from the Lord and you be obsessed with yours. We will thereby complement each other and labour together seamlessly in the vineyard, whether by planting or watering, as the Spirit directs and enables. Biblical ministries must never be thought of as being in competition with each other, and we must never ‘play them off’ against against each other as if to suggest that one is more important than another.

In this whole matter of evangelism and making disciples we must start learning to function properly, by which I mean biblically! We need to stop messing it all up by continuing to do things according to unbiblical Christian tradition – which so few believers seem willing to question and challenge – and to function instead purely in accordance with God’s Word.

More tomorrow, same time, same channel! Be there or be square!

 

Biblical Evangelism – Part 2

We established yesterday that nowhere does scripture teach the commonly held belief that every believer is required by the Lord to be engaged in proactively evangelising the lost. We saw that all believers are bound by scripture to be ready to give an account of their faith whenever called upon by unbelievers so to do, but the idea that all Christians ought to be proactively evangelising is, biblically speaking, a fallacy. But there is quite a bit more to be said about this, and some of it might just blow your socks off!

Part of the package of our commonly held obsession with all things evangelistic and missional is the accompanying idea that Christians should make a priority of praying for the salvation of the lost. Prepare, then, for a bombshell! In over 45 years of reading and studying the New Testament, and in some considerable detail too, I have yet to find a single verse that explicitly or categorically states that Christians ought to pray for the salvation of unbelievers. Paul exhorts Timothy that there ought to be prayer for governmental authority, and there’s little doubt that the leaders he had in mind would have been mostly unbelievers; but the object of the prayer he instructs Timothy to be praying was nothing to do with their personal salvation; indeed, it was nothing to do with them personally as individuals at all, but pertained solely to their political role in the maintenance and continuance of social harmony.

I Timothy 2:1-2 – “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”

So where, I ask, are all the verses in the New Testament that teach that prayer for the salvation of the lost should be part of a believers prayer life? (Answers on a post card please!) Amazing, isn’t it? Yesterday we saw that there are no verses in the New Testament teaching that every Christian should proactively evangelise, and now this morning no verses instructing us to pray for the salvation of the lost! Wow! What on earth is going on? Well, I think it’s this:

If we claim that scripture, and scripture alone, is our authority in matters of faith and doctrine, and that the Bible is the inspired and infallible Word of God given precisely in order that our thinking becomes increasingly conformed to it, then we would expect as the years go by that, more and more, the way we think, and the the way we talk, would more and more comprehensively echo what we read in its pages. For example; although it is sadly changing now, throughout church history Christians have said an awful lot about the importance of celibacy outside of marriage and of the necessity for sexual fidelity within it. This doesn’t mean, of course, that Christians throughout church history have always been right about everything, sexual ethics included, but when we turn to the pages of the New Testament regarding that particular subject we do indeed see such thinking plastered all over its pages. Wherever you are in your Bible reading you will never have to read much further in the New Testament before you get to clear and categoric teaching regarding the command of celibacy outside of marriage and sexual fidelity within it. So what I am saying is that should we find ourselves thinking in particular ways about particular things, but then discover that such ideas and/or emphases are not actually present in the pages of scripture, then it should alert us to the fact that something is clearly wrong.

And I have to tell you that wherever you currently are in your reading of the New Testament, not only would you have to read an awful lot further through its pages in order to find instruction and exhortation that all believers are to proactively evangelise and to pray for the salvation of the lost, you will actually not get to any such verses at all no matter how far you read on or how many times you then re-read it! Such statements, teachings and instructions are simply not there! However incredible this seems to us, they don’t actually exist! So when we find ourselves putting great emphasis on things concerning which scripture is virtually silent, then something is obviously very, very wrong. And I gotta tell you, it isn’t the New Testament!

But perhaps I ought to answer a question here that you might be asking yourself, and it’s simply this: Do I ever pray for people’s salvation? And the answer is, “Yes! I most certainly do! Indeed, I pray on a regular basis for the salvation of quite a few folk the Lord has put on my heart, principally, but not exclusively, my remaining unsaved relatives!” But why, I hear you ask? Why would I do that in the light of what I have just written? Well, I do it because there are verses in the Bible that exhort me to make my requests made known to God, and which therefore suggest that I should be imploring him concerning the desires of my heart. Therefore, because I obviously want these folk to be saved, and because, just as I tell Belinda everything (and Bethany most things), I will obviously also tell my Lord and Saviour of my desire for the salvation of those folk too!

But of course this doesn’t change the fact that the completely unscriptural idea that people’s eternal salvation somehow depends on Christians praying for them still needs to be countered. Think about it: If someone’s salvation is a matter of divine election, then praying for them to be saved isn’t going to change anything regarding whether God has elected them or not! Conversely, if salvation is based not on God’s choice as to whether or not someone is saved, but rather on the free-will choice of the individual, then what on earth is prayer for their salvation going to achieve? Answer: Absolutely nothing! If you believe your prayer effects a change of their mind regarding salvation, then that is just another way of saying you don’t believe they have free-will; yet scripture makes clear that God holds people both responsible and accountable for their behaviour. So actually, whether you are in the predestination/election camp or the free will camp, neither allow for the assertion that prayer for someone’s salvation is either necessary or effectual! Whether the driving force in salvation is God’s will or the sinners will, any idea that prayer could change either cancels out any idea of free volition, whether divine or human! Even the Lord can’t make a four-sided triangle, or do anything whereby the concept is itself anti-rational! So too with any notion of praying for people’s salvation. Crazy, eh?

So however bewildering this might be – and it sure bewilders me – we must nevertheless still be aware of it! But hey, did we ever think but for one moment that the truth of the Lord of Glory wouldn’t utterly bewilder us? And often too! Believing things the Bible doesn’t teach won’t help us any more than not believing things that it does! If it’s the truth which sets us free, and it most certainly is because that’s what Jesus said, then believing anything which isn’t true will, conversely, land us up in bondage in some way.

We will continue other aspects of this tomorrow, so come back then! Go on, I dare you!